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Recently I decided I would try to join the push email generation. The last time I had push mail was when I was a Sidekick 2 user many years ago, and back then only my personal mail was sent to my handset, as I had separate email accounts for business and personal use. But soon GMail slowly convinced everyone to merge all their email addresses into a single account. This was a bad idea.To test push email I decided to forward my email from GMail to a push-enabled account. This was a disaster – I get so much email between work and friends that my pocket was constantly vibrating, and my phone was filling up with emails I couldn’t care less about as so much the email that comes to my work address is notifications or off topic pitches from PR people. So to stem the flood, I went to set up some filters in GMail to tell it who was important enough to push mail from (by forwarding that to my push account). However GMail’s filters are so basic that it would have taken me hours of manually entering email addresses when all I really wanted to say was “if the email address matches one in my contacts list, forward the email.” (I could do this in 3 clicks – THREE CLICKS – from my Mac.) So my re-introduction to push mail left a bad taste in my mouth. I turned off the push account and went back to checking my email account manually whenever I felt like I needed to check in.

Recently, the iPhone has been intriguing me and so I decided to test out its push capabilities. However my previous experience taught me I couldn’t forward everything to my phone and I couldn’t get the filters I wanted in Gmail. So I took the old fashioned approach and moved my work email to its own separate account. I set my personal email account to forward to Yahoo! push account and created a separate account on the phone to check my work email manually. This solved one problem – my pocket wasn’t constantly buzzing – but created another. Because of the awful way you have to switch back and forth between accounts on the iPhone, as soon as I went to see why my pocket was buzzing, the phone would start checking my work account too and it created an even more frustrating loop of checking and rechecking.

I wanted to turn everything off and just go back to SMS. I thought of ways I could send a nice autoresponder to people telling them that if their matter was urgent, they should text me. That is, after all, what text is for – reaching people as soon as possible with a succinct message. I hate that some people use email like text. I do not hover over my email on my phone or on my computer, we have conduits like IM and SMS for instant communication.

So I did the unthinkable. I turned off my work account altogether, leaving only the push account my personal email is forwarded to, and quickly i was in heaven. I only get about 40 personal email messages per day, and 99% of it is something i want to read. So whenever my pocket buzzes, it’s with something that’s going to make my day (though every once in a while it makes my day worse) – whether it’s an SMS or a push email. Instead of my friends using email like IM (they don’t know it’s coming to me instantly) the mails I get on my phone are like pleasant distractions I can deal with whenever – everyone still texts me if they want me immediately.

And so now that I’ve got a good system in place, I’m wondering how to get the appropriate, important, emails to my phone. It’s easy enough to tell GMail to forward mails from my two fellow Phone Scoopers, but what about all my other contacts who usually send me mail I consider important enough for my phone? that might be a long list.

I’ve considered an auto-responder to tell people they can send email to my push account. I’ve considered a different auto-responder telling everyone – whether they send email to my personal or work account to text me if something is important and turning off email altogether. i’ve considered investigating services like enotifyme, that make setting up filters easier than GMail. and I haven’t come up with an answer I like.

Why? Well I hate the autoresponder solution because it flips the responsibility back to the sender. They’ve already made an effort to contact me (albeit by what may be the wrong channel) and I feel it’s inappropriate to put the onus back on them to use the right channel. Although it would train everyone to use the appropriate medium for the situation, i feel like there should be back end systems to handle that so that people only need to remember one way to contact me and the system takes care of the rest.

But setting up today’s filter systems to take make sure the right emails, calls, texts, etc. get to you how and when you want is so cumbersome. It puts an undue onus on the user. It takes too much time and effort, and there’s no learning mode, so all modifications have to be made manually. I want to make it easy for others, but I want to make it easy for myself, as well (of course!).

Unfortunately for now i’ve chosen to forward a select group of people to my push account and have left the rest to sit and wait until I get to a computer to check their messages. Maybe I should add an autoresponder with instructions for those who aren’t pushed, but can’t some things just wait?

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